Mazurek: Sports shine in the grey areas
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, September 21, 2017
I’d like to dedicate this column to my mom and my grandma.
They are wonderful people who have nurtured my love of sports and I can confidently say I wouldn’t be in the position I am without them.
But watching sports with my mom and grandma can be trying sometimes.
My mother’s side of the family has been die-hard North Carolina fans for many years and since my time at Notre Dame, they’ve extended that intense fandom to Irish sports as well.
And that intense fandom manifests itself in yelling. And shouting. At the players, at the announcers, but most commonly at the referees.
“Why isn’t that a foul? Why didn’t they call that? He can’t do that.”
It may seem like I’m singling out my family, but I’m sure there are people you know who are like this. The people you love dearly in so many aspects of life, who just making watching sports a … let’s say an experience.
For a long time I thought their yelling at the referees was annoying. Th e referees couldn’t hear them, and we often watched games on tape delay to fast forward through commercials, so the play in question was lost to the past.
But as the years have gone on, I began to realize that there was something behind that shouting. There was energy and passion certainly, but the reason for the shouting comes from seeing the sports world in black and white.
In sports, just like in life, there is an accepted set of rules. Both teams and the audience knows how many players can be on the field, how much time is in the game and other basics. It’s black and white.
But it’s when the rules don’t cover a scenario, or when the rule governing a scenario is flawed or when the actual event is unclear, then the passions flare up.
It’s hard to assuage someone who feels an injustice has been done. Take a basketball game. The refs call a block. But the matriarchs of my family see their team’s player stand still and try to take a charge. They don’t see the player’s arms come down and make contact on the block attempt. They also don’t see the ref struggling to get in position to see the play or understand that the block or charge call is inherently difficult to distinguish and that referees flat out mess up sometimes.
Once an area of contention in our household, these situations — which I’m dubbing “grey areas” — actually give us some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments in sports. When there’s uncertainty — both on the small scale of one play and on the larger scale of sports debate and commentary — that’s when sports shine.
Going for it on fourth down, going to the bullpen with runners on the corners and two outs — those types of decisions add as much excitement to the game as a touchdown or home run. Those are the type of plays that give a game shape, that true fans of a team remember. For example, anyone can tell you the Cubs won the World Series. But, a real Cubs fan, like my dad, will constantly complain about manager Joe Maddon’s decision to pull Kyle Hendricks in the fifth inning of Game 7 in favor of Jon Lester.
On the larger scale, the buildup to a game is objectively more exciting if the outcome is uncertain.
Talk shows have more punch if there is validity to both sides of an argument. Maybe someone should tell that to Skip Bayless.
So, along with so many other things, I’d like to thank my family for helping me realize that grey areas make sports great.
Maybe I’ll even join the shouting.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.